The Rootless Forest, Birmingham

The Rootless Forest (2012) a mobile sculpture comprising of a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted onto a converted canal hopper, will travel the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country from August to October, with associated events at Edible Eastside, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Ikon Gallery and New Art Gallery Walsall. When fully constructed, The Rootless Forest will weigh 15 tonnes, with 100 trees up to 3 metres tall planted along its 16 metre length.

Beth Derybyshire, lead artist on the project presents the The Rootless Forest as a reflection upon the upheaval experienced by communities, individuals and landscapes in times of conflict. Inspired by the moving forest of Birnham Wood in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the trees are a motif for both camouflage and combat, a habitat for multiple voices and a transitional space between past and future. The Rootless Forest bears reference to Birmingham’s rich history as a military city and is considered to have the largest population of Afghan people outside of London, many of whom have been displaced by war.

During the journey the boat will broadcast a soundscape, crafted by Beth Derbyshire and Dr. Tara McAllister-Viel, consisting of verbatim stories from people affected by the current Afghan conflict, including UK military personnel who have served overseas and Afghans who have settled in Birmingham as a result of war in their homeland. As The Rootless Forest moves slowly along the water, its continual motion echoes these accounts of displacement and relocation.

Audiences encountering The Rootless Forest from the towpaths of Birmingham will see an arc of young trees set against the backdrop of the historic industrial waterways. The trees, all native to the UK, will be re-planted in Walsall Arboretum once the project is complete, becoming a lasting monument to those affected by conflict.

The Rootless Forest, 31st August until 7th October, moored at Brindleyplace, Birmingham B1 2JF.